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Currently | Pumping Up the Vitamin D

Currently april 24

Briefly | Is there anything better than springtime in Minnesota? I honestly don’t think so. Even though we’ve had some extended periods of rain over the last couple of weeks, being able to spend sunny afternoons out walking in the parks near my house or sitting out on the patio with a book has been so rejuvenating. I can almost feel the Vitamin D flooding back into my body (that’s not really how that works, is it?).

Reading | I finally finished some books! My favorite was Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, a look at the importance of productive rest in a healthy life. I bought the book when it first came out in December, but at the time I was in such a frenzied place I couldn’t really think about resting. Now, I can.  

I also had a lot of thoughts on Dark Money by Jane Mayer, a look at the a growing network of billionaire Libertarians and their efforts to influence the American political process. Reading about the money behind recent political movements was illuminating, and important for people of all political persuasions to understand better.

I’m also nearly finished with Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson, the story of a teenage mother invited to raise her son in a communal family as part of an experiment on child rearing. I’m about halfway finished, and I really have no idea where it is going.

Listening | I randomly slipped back into audio books this month, finishing up Hit Makers by Derek Thompson (social science on what it takes to make something popular) and starting Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (narrated by Lin Manuel Miranda!).

Watching | I’m so excited that Brooklyn 99 is back! That show makes me smile every week. I’m also enjoying the view out out the windows at the library, where I’ve been trying to go and write a few times a week. 

Loving | My 100 Day Project, #100DaysofBooksByKim on Instagram, has been so much fun! I love trying to find creative ways to photograph books, and the short review format seems to be working well for me. I’m hoping to get a round up from the first couple of weeks here on the blog later this week.

Loving II | Last week I went to Adult Night at the Minnesota Zoo, which was a total delight. I got to see some little piggies, zookeepers feeding a moose, and some Moon Jellyfish. It was so fun!

Anticipating | Vacation! I guess every day of unemployment is vacation, so maybe it’d be better to say “travel!” This weekend I’m heading to Wyoming to visit a friend. We’re doing a color run (walk) on Saturday, but otherwise I think we’re just going to bum around and drink wine and cuddle with her cats. #winning

So, that’s what’s going on the last couple of weeks. Happy reading, everyone! 

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first quarter book report

Since this is, allegedly, a book blog, I figured I better get back around to talking about books at some point. My reading pace over the last six months has been positively glacial, which meant monthly reading wrap ups didn’t seem to make much sense. But updates once every couple of months or once a quarter? That I think I can do.

Here’s what I read between January and March of 2017:

Thanks to V.E. Schwab’s excellent Shades of Magic trilogy, my reading so far this year has been pretty heavily skewed towards fantasy/fiction, but I’ve gotten a little bit of nonfiction in there too. I thought both Hidden Figures and The Stranger in the Woods were great, definitely recommended.

One thing I would like to improve going forward is reading more diversely. I really enjoyed the variety of my reading life in 2015 and early 2016, most of which came from consciously choosing books by people of color. I haven’t done that much lately, and my reading has gotten much, much whiter because of it.

A Look Ahead to April, May and June

There is a lot of great nonfiction coming out in the next several months. Books on my radar include:

  • Sunshine State by Sarah Gerard (April 11 from Harper Perennial) — essays on the weirdness of Florida
  • Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann (April 18 from Doubleday) — historical nonfiction on the birth of the FBI following the murders of members of the Osage tribe
  • Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant (April 24 from Knopf) — emotional resilience in the fact of loss
  • One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaahi Koul (May 2 from Picador) — essays on being Indian and female
  • The Song Poet by Kao Kalia Yang (paperback out May 9 from Picador) — memoir of a Hmong refugee in MInnesota
  • The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich (May 16 from Flatiron Books) — memoir of personal history, crime, and the law
  • The H-Spot by Jill Filipovic (May 17 from Nation Books) — on the feminist pursuit of happiness
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay (June 13 from Harper) — essays on food, bodies, pleasure, consumption, appearance and health

I will certainly not get to reading all of those, but it’s good to have goals, right? I’m also deep into a kick of personal development books, especially those concerned with finding meaning and purpose in life… no surprise there. I could probably do a couple of posts on my new obsession with widow memoirs and self-help on emotional resilience.

What books are you looking forward to over the next few months? What books should I make sure are on my radar?

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currently april 10 2017

Briefly | My first week of unemployment has been… surprisingly great. I knew having some time off from the regular grind of work was going to feel good, but I don’t think I registered how hard I’d been working to hold all my shit together until I didn’t have to do it anymore. I’ve been taking long walks, spending time with friends and family, catching up on television, and, of course, reading. I know this honeymoon period will wear off eventually, but for now I’m feeling really good.

Reading | It feels like I have a lot of books in progress right now… I’m partially through Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker (nonfiction on the world of elite wine snobs), The Mothers by Brit Bennett (fiction about an unplanned pregnancy and the aftermath of that decision), Dark Money by Jane Mayer (nonfiction on the impact of ultra-wealthy conservative spending in politics) and Constructive Wallowing by Tina Gilbertson (self help on the importance of feeling rather than managing bad feelings). I’d like to settle in and finish a couple of those this week.

Listening | I am still on a hardcore podcast kick. My favorite, at the moment, is Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, a chapter-by-chapter re-read of the Harry Potter series as “instructive and inspirational texts” that can teach us about our own lives. It is delightful.

Watching | My biggest unemployment temptation is watching television constantly, which I am actively trying to avoid. I did fly through all eight episodes of Legion, a David Hawley-created series looking at David Haller and the X-Men, which was fun if also not quite as innovative as it pretended to be. Up next is probably Big Little Lies from HBO.

Hating | One thing I am still too lazy to do is cook dinner. I need some simple recipes I can put together without turning our kitchen into a disaster so I stop eating frozen meals multiple times a day… all that sodium can’t be good.

Loving | Last week I joined the 100 Day Project, an effort to do something creative every day between April 4 and July 12. I am doing 100 Days of Books over on Instagram with the hashtag #100DaysofBooksByKim. Flexing my writing muscles and getting creative with book photography has been so much fun.

Anticipating | I got invited to join a book club! This particular club meets about once a month to read through the New York Times top 10 books of the previous year (here’s the 2016 list). The next three books on the calendar are Dark Money by Jane Mayer, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, and Evicted by Matthew Desmond. Imagine me making that heart-eye emoji face right now because that’s exactly how I feel.

Promoting | I’m continuing to enjoy writing my nonfiction newsletter for Book Riot. At the end of March, I did a big round up of popular nonfiction that’s finally out in paperback… a labor of love if there ever was one. You can read the archives of True Story here, and sign up for all of Book Riot’s newsletters here.

So, that’s my first week of April. I anticipate the second week will be filled with more reading, walking, watching, and cleaning… my parents are getting ready to sell their house and have already made it clear they expect their unemployed daughter to help get things ready to go. Happy reading!

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100 day project 100 days of books

Hello? Is this thing still on?

The last couple of months have been strange. They felt full, but looking back I can’t really pin down what they were filled with. I’d been feeling worn out, physically and emotionally exhausted, but couldn’t seem to admit that to myself or to really figure out what to do about it.

Then, two weeks ago, the company I worked for decided to eliminate my position for boring and corporate reasons – budget issues that resulted in restructuring. Blech.

Getting laid off through no fault of your own looks better on paper, but hearing it and living it out doesn’t hurt any less. I cried myself to sleep several times over the last couple of weeks, including Friday night after my last day at the company. I spent the weekend doing things that made me happy, trying not to think about all of the adulting that comes next.

Then I woke up this morning feeling… calm. The break I needed but couldn’t admit to needing is here. I have savings and unemployment and some odd jobs to keep me afloat. I have a supportive family and caring friends. And now I have space… to think, to regroup, to refocus, to figure out what my life is like after two big, scary, painful losses. A friend suggested calling this period a sabbatical — a rest from work, or a break — which actually sounds just about perfect.

As all of this was happening, I was reminded of a project I saw last spring that piqued my curiosity. The 100 Day Project is a free, global art initiative where people around the world commit to doing something creative every day for 100 days (April 4 through July 12). I’m not really an artist, so I wouldn’t have immediately pegged this as something I would be interested in trying. But last year a blogger I follow participated via writing and photography… both things I like and want to make more time to do.

After some hemming and hawing and brainstorming, I finally settled on what I think will be a good project for this season of my life: 100 Days of Books. For the next 100 days, I am going to try and post a photo of a book I’ve read, along with a brief review, over on Instagram (@kimthedork). This gets me back in the habit of writing reviews, gives me a chance to work on my book photography, starts creating a sort of routine, and should be both portable and inexpensive. Winning all around.

Truth be told, I am not great at following through on long-term projects like this, but I’m starting out optimistic, full of ideas, and with a lot more time on my hands than I might normally have, so… here’s to a giving it a shot.

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Currently

Briefly | I was planning to do a January reading wrap up post this week, but when I sat down to write it I realized I only finished two books last month – A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab in print and Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick in audio. It’s not the most auspicious way to start off my 2017 reading life, but I guess that means things can only improve from here.

Reading | One of my goals for February is to read for 30 minutes every day. The two books I’m jumping between right now are The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith (a look at the four pillars of leading a meaningful life) and A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab (the second book in the Shades of Magic trilogy). They’re both comfort reads, in different ways, which feels exactly right for this strange season of life.

Listening | The last couple of months have been all about podcasts. I recently discovered another NPR gem, Hidden Brain, about many of the unseen forces that shape our lives. A November 2015 episode called “Lonely Hearts” hit me right in the feels this week.

Watching | I’m really enjoying PBS’s new Masterpiece show on Queen Victoria, and I’m excited that The Magicians came back on SyFy last week. And although it was kind of twisty and dark, I really liked the ending of the first season of The Good Place, which wrapped up a couple of weeks ago (and is coming back for another season!).

Cooking | Over the weekend, I made this creamy bacon bow-tie pasta with Brussels sprouts recipe that Meg (Write Meg) recommended on her blog. It was excellent – so delicious and simple that I may just buy the cookbook it came from.

Missing | I’ve been in my new, long-term living situation since October, but I still haven’t gotten around to getting a new library card. I miss browsing at the library a lot, so I’m hoping to remedy that situation this month.

Hating | I can’t even really think of where to start on this one. The current political situation is bananas and infuriating and I can’t imagine trying to sustain this level of outrage for the next four years. That’s really all I can muster up about that. I put the cartoon from Poorly Drawn Lines at the top of this post in my daily to do list notebook last August as a joke… it’s not really so funny anymore!

Loving | Losing the boyfriend the way I did has radically changed my perspective on the world, in both bad and good ways. One of the good things has been more gratitude for the people in my life who have stepped up in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I’m trying to find ways to recognize, reciprocate and remain grateful for that.

Bragging | The newspaper I worked for until last August earned a first place general excellence award in our state’s annual community newspaper contest. Awards don’t always mean much, but it felt really good to have the work during my last year at the paper – a year that was challenging in a whole host of ways – recognized as being really good.

Promoting | The second edition of the nonfiction newsletter I’m writing for Book Riot, True Story, went out on Friday. If you haven’t signed up, you can do that at this link. And if you missed it, you can read the first edition, a big juicy list of 15 of my favorite fun and fascinating nonfiction books, at this link.

And that’s all I’ve got for now. Happy February, and happy reading! What are you excited about diving into right now?

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